From Monday to Friday, I attended the American Society for Microbiology meeting held in Toronto. Before I get to some of the interesting science, my apologies to all of the people who suggested we meet up. Unfortunately, I never look at the blog (or almost never) while I’m on the road, so I missed your messages (it’s best to email me directly). Anyway, here’s the list of random things:
- The E. coli responsible for the spinach outbreak is found in many feral swine. Hence, feral swine are a possible reservoir of E. coli O157:H7. Of course, feral pigs roaming around California in significant frequencies is, by itself, erm, interesting…
- One of the things I’ve been meaning to write about is the discovery of an antibiotic resistance plasmid–a mini-chromosome that can be transferred from bacterium to bacterium–that has shown up in two species of Yersinia (including pestis) and Salmonella. You can find the paper here, but one of the authors told me that he thinks the reason this plasmid is showing up in meat-associated strains (i.e., the Salmonella) is that the plasmid also possesses a gene that encodes resistance to the disinfectant rinse used to decontaminate carcasses. Scary.
- One of the ways that bacteria protect themselves from tetracycline is through the production of a ribosomal protection protein (‘RPP’). An interesting poster argued, and I think convincingly, that RPPs evolved long before tetracycline producing organisms existed… making it unclear what the exact ‘primordial’ function of RPPs was.
- Denmark does E. coli differently. E. coli has four major groups (although that might be under revision to five) defined by phylogeny: A, B1, B2, and D*. In human, the predominant human commensal clones are A & B1, and B2 and D are relatively infrequent. The latter two groups also contain a lot of the disease-causing strains and commensals, that if given a chance, are good at causing disease, such as urinary tract infections. In Spain, there are very few B2 & D commensals, while in most other countries there are some of each (around 10-15%). In Denmark, B2 and D are the most common. Also, there seems to be a much greater diversity of strains in Denmark: the commensal ‘epidemic’ doesn’t appear to operating there. I haven’t figured out what this means yet, though.
- Toronto is really expensive. The sales taxes are ridiculous, and I’m a tax-and-spend liberal.
- The Royal Ontario Museum has an amazing exhibit of Asian art. The temporary Peruvian archeology exhibit is also a must see.
That’s all, folks!
*Microbiologists are pathologically boring when it comes to naming things. Sigh.